Proflight Zambia gears up for Zambia Airways' launch

August 29 2018
Privately-owned Proflight Zambia (P0, Lusaka) is considering expanding its regional African footprint as it prepares for the launch of the Zambian government's new Zambia Airways project in early 2019.

In a statement, Proflight said the recent acquisition of its first Dash 8-300 would free up its CRJ-100 thus allowing it to explore more new routes domestically and regionally.

Among the potential destinations being explored include Johannesburg in South Africa, Gabon (presumably Libreville), Entebbe/Kampala in Uganda, and Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania.

Proflight's domestic network extends across Zambia with Lusaka connected to each of Livingstone, Kalabo, Royal, Jeki, Solwezi, Ndola, Kasama, and Mfuwe. Regionally, its Lusaka hub is connected with Lilongwe (Malawi), Harare Int'l (Zimbabwe), and Durban King Shaka (South Africa). In terms of scheduled fleet, Proflight operates one CRJ-100, three Jetstream 41s, two Cessna (single turboprop) 208B Grand Caravans, and one B737-500 (wet-leased from South African ACMI/charter specialist, Africa Charter Airline).

Established in 1991, Proflight has been one of the few privately-owned Zambian carriers to survive in the wake of the collapse of the original Zambia Airways (1964) (QZ, Lusaka) in 1995.

Beginning early next year, however, both Proflight and Mahogany Air will have to contend with a renewed Zambia Airways, this time a 55/45 partnership between the government's Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and Ethiopian Airlines and which will target three key markets - domestic, regional African, and international flying. It will operate Dash 8-400s and B737NextGen initially before branching off into the widebody/longhaul segment.

Aside from the Zambia Airways project, government has also splurged on the upgrading of three major airports in Zambia, the most important of which is the USD360 million expansion of the colonial-era Lusaka Kenneth Kaunda International Airport. The upgrade works include the construction of a new international passenger terminal, a 30-room in-transit hotel as well as a 70-room non-transit passenger hotel. Partially financed by the EXIM Bank of China and the Zambian Government, the terminal is due to be completed in October 2019 and will assist in what the state hopes will be the transformation of Lusaka into a regional transit hub.

Other multi-million dollar investments include the construction of the new greenfield Copperbelt International Airport, which will replace Ndola Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport, at a cost of almost USD400 million and the new passenger terminal at the tourist-heavy Livingstone Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport which was completed and opened in late 2016.

International financing houses have, however, questioned the logic behind President Edgar Lungu's decision to invest in such capital-intensive projects at a time when prices for Zambia's chief export, copper, have continued on a downward trend from highs in 2011.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) suspended support to Lusaka in August 2017 after authorities unveiled new borrowing plans for infrastructure projects that threatened its debt sustainability and undermined its macroeconomic stability.

According to Reuters, with the IMF's support on hold, Lungu turned to Turkey where, during an official visit to Zambia in July, President Tayyip Erdogan said an unspecified Turkish company had expressed interest in refinancing Zambia's USD750 million Eurobond which is due in 2022. However, given the recent collapse in the value of the Turkish Lira and Ankara's own internal economic issues, it is uncertain how far this new plan will proceed.

Zambia has a USD1 billion Eurobond due in 2024 and another USD1.25 billion Eurobond which will be due for repayment in 2027.

In July, the Fitch Rating Agency re-affirmed Zambia's rating at B/Negative Outlook while Moody's downgraded the Southern African state from B3 to Caa1 / Stable Outlook.
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